Monthly Archives: March 2008

….of bulls and bears….

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………..17 pairs of eyes were staring back at me blankly……………..!

This was the response I got when I was asking a Business English class, if they knew how a rising stock market came to be called bullish’ and a falling stock market, bearish’? “Oh come on, … you mean you don’t even have a theory?”.  More blank stares. Sigh… I guess young city slickers of today really don’t have much opportunity to commune with real life bulls or bears to have any inkling how they lived or even moved for the matter …. O.K. Forgiven!

Let me tell you why……… 

It’s all smiles in a BULLISH  stock market! Money in the pocket. The financial indices are moving up, up and away. Stock prices are rising. So – what has the BULL, who’s probably stuck in a farm or a field somewhere,  got to do with this whole fiasco. Way out of its element, no? Well it alludes to the way a BULL attacks – you see, the bull heaves its horned head upwards when it is attacking….  So, rising head vs. rising stock markets … now, do you get it?

As for the BEAR, well it attacks by lunging downwards…  hence you have a BEARISH market where plunging indices and dipping stock prices are the order of the day.

Check this video out before you read any further! A good demonstration of how a bear attacks ….. you really wouldn’t want to miss it …..   

AHAHAAAHHHH – Sorry for being corny, I couldn’t resist it! OK, so I’m a city slicker too. Don’t take my word for it, go watch the National Geographic channel or something 🙂

Before we move on, let me digress a bit into the use of bull in the English Language! Did you know that …….. the word bulldoze (which implies the idea of pushing others around) was originally written as ‘bulldose. This means that you apply a good dose of whipping sufficient to get even a bull moving which gave birth to the modern version of “bulldozing your way through to get things done ….”  And if you bully someone, it really suggests that you’re overbearing like the bull and you bellow’ like one too. In other words, you’re just plain mean’.  Has anyone described you as being ‘bull-headed’?  Sorry, I can’t help you there, you’re probably downright stubborn. Lastly, I shouldn’t even go into the use of the word which involves the faeces of the bull which represents an extremely vulgar expletive … especially when someone expresses displeasure at hearing you talk nonsense.  As you can see, the status of the word BULL in the English Language is not as elevated as its cousin’s use in the financial markets.  Well, you can’t win ’em all.

Ok, back to the financials – you might come across people saying that a trader who sells stocks short is called a ‘bear’. They are called thus because essentially they are selling stocks without having them, in the hope that the price will go down and he can purchase what he needs for delivery at a lower cost. And so the old Western folk saying still applies to him: “He sold the skin before he got the bear.”

Well folks, that’s my two sen worth with regards to the use of bulls and the bears in Business and everyday English. Thank you for ‘bearing’ with me through this blog…and NO, this time the word does not allude to the poor animal at all….

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…. Good Friday message

It was a wet & rainy Friday night………, when I was driving to Crystal Crown Hotel. To make things worse, the hotel car park was full when I arrived & I was redirected to an open air parking space behind the hotel. And just when I thought the worst was over, I realized there was no umbrella in the car. So, I got wet as wet could be. Shucks – Was this ominous of a horrible night ……… ???

Thankfully, NO. I was actually attending a special Good Friday service organised by RL’s church. He sent me a flyer about it & it looked interesting, so I went. The speaker was Tony Anthony,  a British Christian Evangelist & founding director of Avanti (an organisation which supports churches in various endeavours). And he had an interesting story to tell………..

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Tony Anthony, who is half Italian and half Chinese,  was born in England. He was sent to live in China, at the tender age of 4 because his father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and his mother had trouble coping. His grandfather was a martial arts ‘sifu’ and he brought Tony up in a manner unconventional to the Western eye. In Tony’s words “he was abused & beaten” while being taught the Martial Arts.

He went back to England when he was 12 & he continued learning Martial Arts there. He eventually rose to become the World Champion ‘Master’ of Martial Arts 3 times in a row:  1987/8/9/.  Given his physical skills, he went on to become a body guard. This brought him to the darker realms of life as his services expanded to debt collection on behalf of his clients. Tony Anthony even started robbing the people that he was collecting debts from to finance the cost of his father’s health care when his father asked him for help.

To cut a long story short, his fiancee, died suddenly from a car crash. Aggrieved, he lost it & went on a violent rampage, taking his anger and frustration out by picking fights with people & beating even strangers up in bars and all. Needless to say, the law caught up with him & he was incarcerated in a Turkish prison.

It was in prison that he found God. A British missionary living in Turkey found out that a fellow Britisher was in prison there.  He then sought to ask permission to visit Tony weekly. Of course, Tony being a sceptic at the moment, violently objected to the idea of being visited by an evangelist. That is……. until a fellow inmate told him that he got similar visits from this very same person. He then revealed that the guy always offered him a can of COKE during the visits. That sold it! He agreed to weekly visits! Fancy that – a can of COKE managed to lure a violent criminal to consent to evangelical visits. Miracle … no pun intended… 🙂  

After 6 months, he was crumbling under the pressures of imprisonment. While lamenting the plight of a friend who was cut up badly in a prison brawl, he finally accepted Christ, begged for forgiveness & felt FREE. Today, he is an evangelist.

So that was it. You can say the story was fantastical. You can say the story was dramatic. For me, it was a story, …. reminiscent of the ones you would get from a Chuck Norris flick, minus the evangelical part that is …

But, what struck me was what he said after……… (don’t worry, I’m not going to preach to you..)

He challenged us to think further. He said, we too, are prisoners. We too, are trapped behind the BARS of our obligations, our guilt, our fears, our insecurities. We are imprisoned by our commitments, by our quest for fame, our quest for wealth …..

The message struck a chord, for me personally. He was right. We are all actually prisoners of the lives we have shaped for ourselves. ………….Our lives never seem perfect enough. Our families never seem good enough. Our incomes are too low. Our cars are not luxurious enough. Our homes are not posh enough. We ourselves are never good enough. People don’t show us enough respect. ……….. Life seems to be a constant chase for what we don’t have ………  ‘MORE’ being the operative word.

Well,  I DO HAVE ….. A loved one who loves me back. A loved one who loves me for who I am, with all my imperfections. A family that loves me unconditionallyGood FriendsA Roof over our heads. Food on our table.  A Healthy body…..A Not-So-Healthy Mind (coz its always filled with worry) but at least its free of Alzheimer’s or something like that  …. and a Future lying straight ahead …… 

Time and again there’s a reminder to seize the moment of the day…. And yet, time and again, I yearn to seize the sky. Please kick me in the butt next time I complain ……. Thank you for being my loved one, for being my family, for being my friend.

CARPE DIEM EVERYONE!  

It’s a dog’s life……….

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When I was a kid, I used to dream of having my own house & owning a countless number of dogs! Funny thing is, Fat Dragon & I have moved from an apartment to a  landed terrace property for 2 1/2 years now and we still do not own a dog ….

Well, the last dog I owned was an Alsation/ Mongrel mix of an ultra friendly disposition.  She was my best buddy. We went for walks uninhibited everyday, rain or shine in our Taman. Anyone who got to know her, fell in love with her – yup, even the non-dog lovers.  At the age of 12, she succumbed to illness (heart worms) & had to be put to sleep. I was right there in the Vet’s office when he administered the lethal injections (Yes, you got it right, it was more than one jab) and the last moments were not a pretty sight. So, yeah… you can call it a traumatic moment, you can call it one of the saddest moments of my life. … whatever, life has moved on.

Owning a dog today, is a different ballgame altogether especially if you’re a fan of large dogs like me. 

The thing is, large dogs need a lot of exercise. They need to have space in the garden to move around and they need to be walked regularly. If not, they will grow overweight, suffer extreme boredom or even get health problems. But we all know, in urban KL neighbourhoods (especially terraced homes), pet dogs are fast losing this privilege. Time and again, I hear reports from friends about quarrels with their neighbours. Some of these accounts are pretty hilarious! A Japanese friend was walking her doberman in Bandar Utama, one day.  As they both strolled by a neighbouring house down the road,  the owner dashed out from the house to give her a telling off …. “Hey, don’t walk your dog in front of my house ….!!!!!”. (FYI: they were only strolling by, the dog was NOT taking a poop). Well, she played dumb and said “Huh, sorry no understand English, I Japanese!” …. &  that rendered the neighbour speechless.  He was probably pondering on ways to scold her in sign language … who knows? Well, the nature of other complaints vary, some neighbours complain about the smell of dogs “contaminating” their air space, some complain about the dog’s bath water running down past their  driveway.  Things like that.

In our Resident’s Association website, the level of complaints has reached an even more sophisticated level.  They write about how unhygienic dog poo is, about the noisy barking, etc!  These emails are supported by scientific research attachments, mind you – about the kind of e-coli, bacteria contained in faeces, etc.  Kudos man, these people really do their homework….. wonder how they cope when they do their own toilet jobs… they must go in full contamination suits.

I agree, as we get more urbanised, we are all densely packed into tight residential pockets . When we live as part of a community, we have to be responsible and take ownership when having a pet. We must make sure that compounds are cleaned everyday, we must ensure that our dogs get the necessary shots to prevent disease & most importantly, we really should clean up after our dogs when walking them.  We wouldn’t want our friendly neighbours to pick up some sticky, foul smelling souvenirs in their shoes when jogging in the dim hours of dawn or late evenings, would we? These are obligations that dog owners should adhere to nowadays. It’s only fair in the light of community living.

Now, the smell of dog  contaminating  someone’s air space, ummm, that’s debatable though!  If you complain about smelly dog poo, I sympathise with you completely…… but the smell of DOG?? Well, for your information, if you’re not a dog owner, you can’t bathe a dog every day.  This will wash away all the natural oils from its fur and the dog’s hair will lose its shine. Hmmm, I guess this argument is similar to complaining about a human being having BODY ODOUR, HUMAN MUSK, etc.  But isn’t it the case, some people actually find the human musk sexy? So I say here, one man’s smell is another man’s perfume – Ahahaahahahahhhhh! 

As for noisy barking – food for thought as society develops, perceptions change.  In the good ol’ days,  a dog’s barking was sort of a burglar alarm. When my dog died back then …. our neighbours asked if we were planning to get a new dog. They said that it was good to have a watchdog … it would be safer for our homes. In other words, they were willing to sacrifice having to listen to the dog barking when it saw a stray cat, or a strange car, etc for the benefit of shared security. Now that we are living in the age of technology – people can afford hi-tech alarm systems. Who needs a dog anymore? So, your dog has been reclassified (by a non dog lover, of course) to being a public nuisance ….. See how perception of things changes as time rolls by. 

At the end of the day, the dog owners have their point view, the non dog owners also have their point view. The long and short of it is, tolerance levels have come down amongst urban folk!  Well, like I said, it’s a dog’s life out there ………  dog-in-a-top-hat-and-tie-fa08008.jpg

 

 

 

P.S.  On the back of all these neighbourly concerns, the act of getting a license for the dog is a trial in certain areas (like Shah Alam). You have to get permission from your immediate neighbours if you live in terraced home before the city council issues you a dog license. As a result, a lot of dog owners don’t bother to get it done given the ‘inconvenience’. This means they run the risk of losing their dogs, if they’re not lucky. 

The latest story I heard was about how a friend (in Bukit Jelutong) had to give away his female dog and her litter straight after she gave birth because a neighbour complained.  The authorities were not willing to compromise i.e. wait for the pups to get bigger & be weaned of the mother’s milk. That’s why he had to give away the female together with the litter. He is now left with the male only.

A dog without a license also runs the risk of  getting killed by dog shooters if he was outside the house. That too, is not a particularly pleasant prospect for your beloved pooch.

… Love mattress anyone???

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Too bad Valentine’s day is over…….I came across the funniest product that won the coveted Red Dot Furniture Design award in Germany & I nearly fell off my chair laughing. It’s a LOVE mattress. 

Tell me, how many of you end up with pins and needles along your arms after a cuddling exploit in bed? … Umm… that’s a no brainer answer of course!

Mr. Mojtabavi Mehdi, an award winning designer who hails from Tehran, Iran came up with a solution during a ‘brilliant’ light bulb moment – Why not design a foam block which is flanked by ten, 3-inch wide foam slats which are slung together on either ends of the mattress, respectively.  The slats are supposed to provide an avenue for the limbs to escape to while cuddling, thereby preventing them from being pressured by the partner’s body weight, hence alleviating numbness.  Here’s the “blue print” of the mattress ….

 

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Since the top and bottom halves of the mattress are slatted, you can then slot…….

….. your ARMS like this ….

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  or your FEET like that …………

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How about that?…. Aahahahhhh, so, LOVE MATTRESS anyone??? Indeed worth thinking about …..

Dunno about your response but Mr. Mojtabavi sure is “passionate” about this product. In an interview with an online home magazine, he stresses that the act of embracing in bed is “important for strengthening relationships; However, what usually stops this pleasant state is not mental tiredness, it is physical weakness”. …  By that, I guess he means to do away with you getting your circulation cut off when your partner’s body weight conforms to the forces of gravity onto your arm …… or your feet! 

The mattress is currently a prototype but has won many awards since being unveiled ….. !!! Wow, see how excited Westerners get when you talk about bedroom issues…??

Hmmm…I do have some serious questions in my mind related to this product…..

  1. Umm… what sheets do you use for these mattresses… you mean we have to individually wrap the slats at the upper and lower half of the mattress …whoa, housekeeping nightmare, not to mention having to buy customised sheets along with it!
  2. Now I wonder how comfy a foam block with slats would be….. imagine if you’re in an air conditioned room, you wanna get warm & cozy under the blanket…suddenly a cold draft drifts up from the slats at the bottom….

Well, maybe that’s why its still a prototype. Oh well, for the sake of a GOOD CUDDLE, I’m sure we can ALL make some allowances 🙂

Bring on the love, baby!

p.s. I wonder what Lillian Too  has to say about this mattress. Do you remember those Queen/ King sized beds sets which come with separate mattresses so as to minimize disturbances when the other person moves? ….Well there was a big NO NO from her! Not good feng shui, she says. Significant of a split relationship. Wah…. what a nightmare it would be for her to explain 10 splits on the top half and 10 splits at the bottom half of the love mattress.

p.p.s. Well, it sure isn’t bad feng shui for Mr. Mojtabavi ….. given the awards he’s been garnering in addition to the mattress design! His hanger and his tape dispenser  designs have also won him awards …. Fancy that!

A short take on your spelling blues…

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Did you know there are two letters in the alphabet which cause a lot of confusion in the spelling of certain words in the Business English? How many times have you come across emails, documents, letters which makes use of the words advice & advise in the wrong application? or even practice & practise? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you, but, you’ve really got to mind your C’s & S’s ……………….

Let’s analyse two sentences to see how advice and advise is used differently:

  1. Your advice is for him to leave?
  2. You advised him to leave? 

WHY, did I spell it with a  ‘c’ in the first sentence but with an ‘s’ in the second sentence………? 

You see, when you write “Your advice is for him to leave?”, ‘advice’  here is a NOUN, so you spell it with a C. A noun is a name  word and in this case it is the name given for the product/outcome of this particular action. It does not denote the act of advising itself. Do pay attention to the use of the possessive pronoun ‘your’ before the noun! A name word even if it is in abstract terms, like a piece of advice, is something that you can possess or take ownership, just like an object. (That’s an important clue.)

When you write “You advised him to leave?”, the word ‘advised’ is spelt with an S because the word here is a VERB. In other words, the verb represents the action itself i.e. the act of doing it. A verb would probably answer to the question… “What did he/she/I do?”. Note the use of a pronoun ‘you’ before the verb. (Another important clue.)

To put it in a nutshell,

NAME words (spell with a C)

ACTION words (spell with an S)

Follow these 4 easy steps and your spelling blues should be over … (I hope….)

Step 1.

Determine whether the word is a NOUN (name word)  or a VERB (action word)

Step 2. 

Look out for CLUES if you’re not sure ………

A) PRONOUN CLUES

i) POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS like ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘her’, ‘his’, ‘their’, etc should be followed by a NOUN.        

Eg. My advice …., Your advice ….

ii) PRONOUNS like ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’, etc should be followed by a VERB.        

Eg. I advised ….., You advised …..

B) WORD CLUES  like ‘the’, ‘some’, ‘any’  should be followed by a NOUN.

Eg. “The advice you gave me was very useful.”

Eg. “Can you give me some advice?”

Eg. “Do you have any advice for me?”

C) PEOPLE / GROUP OF PEOPLE CLUES i.e. Tom, Sara, The Board of Directors should be followed by a VERB

Eg. Tom advised us to keep calm

Eg. Sara is advising the interns on proper office attire.

Eg. The Board of Directors has been advising us to consider a different move.

D) PEOPLE in POSSESSIVE CASE as denoted by the apostrophe S (’s) should be followed by a NOUN

Eg. Tom’s advice, Sara’s advice, The Board of Director’s advice, etc

Step 3.

Use your COMMON SENSE if you’re still not sure, in the absence of Step 2 clues! (For eg. ‘advice slip’ – obviously is a name word because it is the name for the type of form)

Step 4.

By now you would have an idea if the word is a NOUN or a VERB so you can start SPELLING correctly!

Do try to apply these basic steps (especially Step 2 clues)  when you encounter problems and you should be on the right spelling track. OK, given the worst case scenario, you can always depend on the spell check – Oh but then…., you would have to mind your Z’s & S’s for eg. analyze or analyse. Ahahahahahhhh!!!!!! ………. That’s because the American and British spelling systems differ in some areas … ….

But, that merits another blog altogether! Good luck spelling bees 🙂

p.s. Maybe it is not such a short take after all, but it is very important to have a good handle of basic grammatical rules  especially if you are having difficulty understanding the concept of a NOUN and a VERB. There is no short cut to this! You probably need to get a good reference book to help you build this foundation.

I personally use “A Practical English Grammar” by A.J. Thomson & A.V. Martinet. The material is relevant and well laid out in point forms. You can get it in the English Language section of any major bookstore in KL…. or just browse through the section for other Grammar or Business English books which might suit you better.   

Down Memory Lane…

Nationalists & historians would of course look upon the British Colonial era as something representing oppression & suppression… but there are some things left over from the colonial days which should be cherished & appreciated…

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We stayed at a holiday bungalow called Hilltop in Cameron Highlands, which is run and owned by the Eu Yan Sang group, over Election weekend.

The colonial influence is evident in the Tudor inspired architecture  of the bungalow. This is reflected in the use of rough sawn timber on the outside of the house to create a post and beam look. The two tiered grounds are beautifully landscaped & although a little run down, the house is cosy enough! 

The four room bungalow comes complete with multiple fire places (can you see the chimneys in the picture?) &  a solid wood flooring, all in keeping with the cool highland weather. It also contains a vast array of antique furniture ranging from the dining table, the chairs, right down to the bedroom armoires & dressing tables.  All the doors of the house still have antiquated iron locks and keys ……. of which Mrs. Chong the housekeeper would never fail to remind us “Turn the key gently please…… if it breaks, there isn’t any locksmith left ALIVE who’d be able to duplicate the keys!” …. umm.. point duly noted Mrs. Chong!

Everything held a fascination for me personally, the taps, the tiles, the clawfoot bathtubs….. seriously, everything. If you look closely at the oversized sinks in the bathroom,  there is even a cool leopard logo (or is it a cheetah?) and it proudly prints “Made in England”. Gosh, it must be over 100 years old. Though old, the sinks are in good condition & of the finest quality unlike the cheap ceramics & bath taps of today.

The place is brimming with history……& now that Mrs. Chong the resident housekeeper is leaving, I fear part of the bungalow’s history is probably leaving with her. After 20 plus years of service, she has become part of the holiday home’s identity. She runs a tight one woman ship (plus a helper, if the crowd is large). The aroma of her scones wafts through the house during tea time and she can whip up a complete full course Western dinner that would leave you bursting at the seams. Her Roast Leg of Lamb is a real kick-ass meal ….! When a Roaring Fortier asked her better half “What is the most memorable thing in Cameron?“…he replied “The LAMB“. Well…. so much for good company, eh?

We now live in the 21st century where quaint dwellings with multiple nooks and corners have been replaced by buildings with clean architectural lines using fuss free materials like steel & glass! I hope that bungalows like Hill Top will remain as it is & never get demolished. Yes, it might be run down but god forbid that it be torn down to build a modern high rise structure which is economically more viable. We have enough of that all over. It lacks character. It lacks identity. Its STERILE. Everything from the facade, to the interior should be preserved, for the sake of history!

We all need to be reminded of what it was like when we go down memory lane ………………!!!  

P.S. If you have plans to stay at the Bungalow, you need to call Euco to make reservations. Do call weeks ahead as weekends are normally fully booked.

P.P.S. The map below given in the website is a bit vague. Important thing is, when you get to Camerons (direction from Tapah), head towards the Golf Course. When you see the green on the right, look out for the Dahlia Apartments which is situated on the left hand side of the road. Turn left when you see it. You will see a road fork straight after turning, keep left. After that you will come to another road fork…keep right. This will bring you along the private road leading to Hilltop, perched alone on top of its own private hill.

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…Banana People Blues…

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BANANA PEOPLE

We are named after this beloved fruit 

Whose skin outside is yellow to suit,

Whose fruit inside is white as off-white could be,

How? You might wonder, did this stereotype come to be?

Well, we too, sport a yellow skin,

But our tongues wag white, which is not in kin

“If you don’t speak Chinese….,” so they say,

“You are not Chinese enough!” and that’s the way.

Our own kind deem to treat us like weed,

And that hurts very much indeed,

We dream of a nation united, is always the case,

But how could that be, when united we are not as a race?

Call us whatever name you like,

Banana People are strong as a dyke

Within us, there is NO colour divide

Within us, UNITY will reach far and wide.

P.S. I am a true blue Banana person and have been one since the day I was born. I am currently learning to speak and write Mandarin but I would like to issue a disclaimer. I am doing it purely for personal development and not in response to claims that Banana People are ‘not Chinese enough’. Frankly who cares if you say I’m not Chinese enough …. I AM MALAYSIAN!!!!